If anyone understands the importance of cleaning, it’s a sterile processing professional. We live our lives under the mantra, “If it’s not clean, it can’t be sterile.” Realizing that effective cleaning can be a matter of life and death for our patients, we spend much time, money, and educational effort ensuring we have the people, products, and processes that allow us to get it done right.
With all this emphasis on instrument-related cleaning, one area where many CS/SPD departments still struggle to prioritize is the realm of workspace cleaning, and I’m not talking about the floors and walls and taking out the trash, as important as those things are. There are a number of other cleaning duties that could mean the difference between safe patient care and a citation on your next accreditation survey. This is a vision of cleaning that can take your department to the next level. Think of it as Cleaning 2.0, and here are a few tips to make sure your teams are leading the charge.
Put dust bunnies in the dustbin
It’s no secret that dust is a challenge in every department in every hospital in the country. It’s also no secret that The Joint Commission won’t think twice about citing your team for those herds of dust bunnies hiding behind your prep pack or computer tower. Even though accreditation organizations make their disdain for dust abundantly clear, someone forgot to tell the dust. While hospital EVS technicians typically own the cleaning of floors, walls, and trash disposal, they typically do not handle dusting of workspaces and storage areas.
This means your SPD technicians will need to dominate the dust on their own time, on a regular basis, across the entire department. SPD teams who do this effectively have dust maintenance built into a regular cleaning assignment schedule, with periodic audits completed by department leadership. As with instrument cleaning, leaders should not assume their technicians know how to dust. Teach your teams the difference between moving the dust around and actually getting rid of it. If you take the time to train and equip everyone on your team to clean their work areas in a standard, repeatable fashion, dust will begin to tremble at the sound of your name.
Key in on cleaning keyboards
Every day, your department keyboards get the brunt of every bug that happens to hop on a finger for an infectious ride. But it’s not just the keyboards. Mouse pads, computer mice, and touchscreens can also become home to untold numbers of microorganisms just waiting for a susceptible host.
When was the last time they were cleaned? Can they be cleaned at all? Along with dominating department dust bunnies, regular cleaning of these high-touch devices should be built into a department’s game plan to ensure the workflow remains dirty to clean, and not dirty to clean to dirty again. Take time to research options for washable keyboards and computer mice, or use disinfectant technology such as UV to keep these devices as clean as possible. Similar procedures should be developed for staplers, tape dispensers, and handheld scanners. If it is touched by your team, it should be part of your cleaning plan.
Stick it to sticky residue
Anyone who has ever used a sticker gun for tagging sterilizer loads knows that 0.5 seconds of angst felt as a sticker falls from your hand, sticky side down, onto the department floor. Not only do you have to stop what you’re doing, now you have to touch the microbe-infested floor with your bare hand to scrape up the renegade sticker before the glue sets in for good. And that’s only if you see it happen. Combine this with the intentional use of tape and stickers throughout the entire assembly process, and you end up with a department full of residual adhesive glue from your prep pack tables to your sterilization carts, sterilizers, and storage racks.
As with dusting, one of the best processes to deal with this challenge is integrating adhesive cleaning into a regularly scheduled assignment for department technicians. Special adhesive-removing chemicals may be necessary to adequately clean this sticky residue, and PPE gear may be required per the chemical’s instructions for use. Whenever possible, sterilizer tape and stickers should only be applied in their intended use and not used to post signage, fix equipment, or be temporarily affixed to equipment surfaces. This will minimize the amount of adhesive residue to be cleaned and give your department a more professional appearance.
Champion autoclave chamber cleaning
Few things are as intimate to the sterilization process as the autoclave chamber, yet these areas are often neglected when it comes to manufacturer-recommended cleaning schedules. A good rule is that if it is in your chamber, it is on your instruments. If the inside of your autoclave looks like someone baked a chocolate pie at 270° for 60 minutes, you may have a problem. For the minority of U.S. facilities who use clean steam, chambers typically remain clean for much longer. For the rest of us, daily or weekly spraying and wiping of autoclave chambers is a must to keep these units in optimal shape.
Annual or biannual professional autoclave cleaning services can also help restore this equipment to its former glory and remove some of the particle buildup that can occur even with regular manual cleaning. Related to this is the optional, but still important opportunity to regularly clean and polish the stainless steel exteriors of your autoclaves, washers, and ultrasonics. Hard water stains and grime on these surfaces are an unnecessary invitation for accreditation surveyors to take a closer look at your processes and equipment.
Ultimately, when we talk about Cleaning 2.0, we are talking about extending the culture of clean beyond instrumentation and teaching our teams to think this way about every aspect of department life and work. While department cleanliness is a critical aspect of successful quality surveys, it is more importantly a quality indicator to the total level of ownership that department leaders and technicians have regarding their mission for safe patient care. This vision of cleaning excellence matters because #FightingDirty doesn’t stop at decontamination. Now it’s up to you to make it happen.
Feature articles exclusively for Ultra Clean Systems by Weston “Hank” Balch, BS, MDiv, CRCST, CER, CIS, CHL
Weapon of Mass Microbial Destruction * Professional Clean Freak * Podcast Host * Safety Addict * CS/SPD Consultant